Has there ever been someone you've admired for certain qualities (their business skills, their straight-A habits, their parenting abilities, etc) and you always wanted to ask how do they do it? I thought it would be interesting to do just that. I asked a few of my friends and family members whose financial skills I admired and present them to you in Profiles in Saving! For the first profile, I decided to do myself...I was available for an interview. :)
LWG: How did you develop your financially savvy identity?
BB: I think it took me awhile to get a sense of what I should be doing with my money. I have always been good about tracking it - as soon as I got my first checking account, I diligently updated my checkbook register. I switched soon to online banking and checked my accounts multiple times a week. I even signed up for Mint.com 3 years ago (way before it was cool). But I did not understand the importance of money until further on down the line. I had multiple credit cards and I only paid the minimum balance. I had store credit cards. I didn't save money I earned. My husband's unemployment really made me stop and think about what I was doing. I started noticing how my spending habits weren't matching up with my goals, and noticing the things I spent my money on didn't necessarily make me happy. Since I had my financial epiphany a year and a half ago, I'm credit card debt-free, I'm a homeowner of a house well within my budget, I have built up an emergency fund to last 6 months, and I co-write a personal finance blog! :)
LWG: How do you integrate saving into your regular routine?
BB: IFor me, it starts with being a savvy consumer. For big purchases (anything over $500), I do some research and shopping around. For everyday purchases, I shop smartly. I don't spend time clipping coupons - they are usually for products I don't buy and it seems like a waste of 30 minutes to save $2. I do shop sales at grocery stores and stock up if there's a product I use frequently. I use group saving sites, like Groupon and Living Social. My other purchase that adds up tends to be coffee - my solution was limiting myself to $25 per month. Once I go over, that's it for the month. It allows me to have an indulgence but I reign it in.
As far as savings go, I need to be better about making it automatic. Right now, anything that's left over at the end of the month goes into savings, and that's usually a decent amount. But making it automatic will just make it less work for me and make it more routine.
LWG: What do you splurge on?
BB: I definitely could slim down my clothes shopping budget. I've improved and I still don't usually spend more than $100 on clothes per month, but I do still get things that are not necessities. I try to stick with the rule of throwing one thing out if I'm going to buy something new, but that takes discipline that I lack sometimes. What I'm splurging on currently is higher quality food products. I subscribe to a CSA (community supported agriculture) and I get an organic produce box every other week for $30. I really believe that what you put into your body is so important and it can affect everything - your health, your skin, your mood. Plus, it's better for the environment to buy local. It is really worth the investment in my opinion.
LWG: What is the best piece of financial advice you've ever been given?
BB: Save at least 10% of any money you ever get - salary, gift, inheritance, etc. My dad said that to me a few years ago when one of his friends said he'd been doing that since he was 15 and it really stuck with me.
LWG: What is the advice you'd give to someone who wants to be lean with green?
BB: I think to not obsess about saving money. I think that ends up backfiring and causing more stress and headaches than it's worth. Live your life and spend your money in a way that's meaningful to you, but make good choices.
Coming next week, a Profile in Savings about some of my best friends. They are a married couple who have inspired me in many ways, but particularly when it comes to being financially smart! I hope you learn as much as I did from them! Stay tuned!